The Secretary of Health position “needs an administrator, not medical personnel”, says Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas.

Late last month, former chief executive officer to the Minister for Health’s Support Office, Bob Williams, was appointed to the role of acting Secretary for Te Marae Ora after Dr Josephine Aumea Herman.

The Public Service Commissioner confirmed Williams’ appointment after he stepped down from the chief executive officer’s role.

However, the appointment was questioned by the Opposition’s Democratic Party who were concerned about the selection process adopted by the Office of the Public Service Commissioner.

Leader Tina Browne earlier said they expected one of the directors in the Ministry of Health to be appointed the acting Secretary of Health until the permanent appointment is made.

Browne said it was concerning that someone with no health administration or health management related qualifications or experience was chosen for the top Health post especially during this Covid pandemic.

However, Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas yesterday clarified the appointment, saying they followed the job description that “guides the selection of anyone to the post”.

“This post needs an administrator, not medical personnel,” Thomas said.

However, he added: “It will be beneficial to have someone who is an administrator with a medical background.”

Thomas also said the acting role was appointed by the Public Service Commissioner “in the case of any vacancy at the Head of Ministry’s (HoM) level”. The appointee did not apply for the acting role.

“Bob Williams being a former HoM has the quality to fill this role before a Secretary is appointed.”

Thomas earlier said Williams had a wealth of administrative and operational experience and his journey in the public sector started with the Cook Islands Police Service serving for 16 years rising to the rank of senior detective at the time of his departure.

The acting Health secretary then spent a decade in the Financial Intelligence Unit managing stakeholder relationships, policy and legislative reforms and also worked with the Office of the Public Service Commissioner as a senior policy advisor followed with his appointment to the Bank of the Cook Islands as the chief risk officer.

According to the Office of the Public Service Commissioner, minimum requirement to apply for Secretary of Health role are Masters in Public Sector Management or Masters in Business Administration in Heath and 10 year’ working experience at a senior leadership position in managing and administering a major function of a small/medium organisation or a major department//branch of a large organisation.

Applications for the role closed in December and Thomas said he was yet to receive the information of all the applications from one of his staff who manages this recruitment.

A permanent replacement is expected to be made before the end of this month, he added.


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